Stay on the right side of new drug-driving law

Head of Road Transport Law | Rothera Sharp Solicitors

Following its introduction, the new drug-driving law operates in a similar way to the drink-driving laws that the public is familiar with, with testing taking place at the road-side.

Under previous legislation, it was an offence to drive under the influence of certain drugs, and the latest laws should also see a reduction in the number of failed prosecutions.  Police no longer have to prove that the driver is unfit to drive, just that there is an illegal level of drugs in their system which can be tested at the road-side with new so called ‘drugalysers’.

There have been instances in the past where a driver has been impaired but it has been difficult to prove that it was as a result of a particular drug.  Now there are eight named illegal drugs where there is a very low tolerance allowed with greater tolerance for eight named prescription drugs including those dispensed to treat insomnia, anxiety and severe pain.

One grey area surrounds the issue of those prescription drugs, given the threshold levels that many people may not be aware of.  If a driver does fall foul of this law, whether it be with prescription or illegal drugs, the offence will be shown on their driving licence and they will face a minimum one year driving ban, a fine of up to £5,000, a criminal record and up to one year in prison.

In the case of death caused by drug driving, the penalty rises to a prison sentence of up to 14 years.  For this reason, it’s particularly important for drivers to consult their GPs to ensure that their medication does not pose a threat in any way.  It’s also vital for employers of drivers to be aware of their staff’s use of medicine to protect against any legal action.

For both members of the public and companies that employ drivers, this new law may seem daunting, particularly with regard to the low tolerance of certain prescription drugs.  As always, it’s important for everyone to be aware of the law and where they stand but a defence is available where a driver takes medication but is not impaired, even though they may be over the prescribed limit, so always take legal advice.

Rothera Sharp Solicitors